Framatome helps advance use of robotics in nuclear D&D

May 19, 2021, 7:03AMRadwaste Solutions
Using Framatome’s technology, Germany’s VIRERO project is developing a robotic system for sorting and packaging radioactive waste. (Photo: Framatome)

Paving the way for increased automation in nuclear decontamination and decommissioning and waste management, French nuclear company Framatome announced that testing has confirmed the operation of its robotic systems for handling and sorting high-dose waste components.

The testing was part of the ongoing Virtual Remote Robotics (VIRERO) project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Conducted in partnership with Germany’s Institute for Factory Automation and Production Systems (FAPS) at the Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nürnberg and the Aachen Institute for Nuclear Training (AiNT), the project is focused on enhancing Framatome’s robot control systems by automating them for waste handling.

Expected to be completed by the end of 2023, the VIRERO project develops technologies for dismantling and sorting high-dose operational wastes, post-conditioning packaged radioactive waste, and radiological sorting for handling, storage, and disposal. Using a segmentation algorithm, radioactive waste can be automatically analyzed, sorted, and disassembled.

Digital twins: The robotic-assisted handling system uses digital twin advancements so that operators can control the technology in an augmented, virtual environment using virtual reality goggles. According to Framatome, automation enhances operator safety and improves waste treatment processes for the safe and efficient decommissioning of nuclear facilities, while also producing volume-optimized waste products. The universal system targets research and commercial reactors and can be adapted to other applications, such as nuclear medicine.

The robotic-assisted handling system is being developed and tested at Friedrich–Alexander University, while AiNT focuses on the development of the automated nuclear measurement part of the handling system for sorting the waste components.

They said it: “Together with FAPS and AiNT, we provide extensive automation and robotics expertise in the field of decommissioning and high-dose waste conditioning,” said Frédéric Lelièvre, senior executive vice president of Sales, Regional Platforms, and the Instrumentation and Control Business Unit at Framatome. “The VIRERO project team combines years of experience in robotics and nuclear measurement technologies, ensuring a safe and robust solution to support our customers’ needs.”

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